You are currently browsing the archives for March 2007.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 15 entries.

Stop CyberBullying

  • Posted on March 30, 2007 at 7:04 AM

Earlier this month I posted about Blog Safety and included a link about CyberBullying. Andy Carvin is initiating Stop Cyberbullying Day this Friday, March 30, 2007 and we want to be responsive to this issue in school libraries.

In our school libraries we work hard to create an atmosphere that is positive and safe for the exploration and expression of ideas. Periodically I have a display of books near a stop sign saying "Stop Bullying." The guidance counselor has presented lessons in classrooms about bullying and worked with me so we have a cohesive approach at my school. I have a zero tolerance for hateful behavior. Room #3 in our library is "Take care of your library." Positive interactions are taking care of the library. Every grade is reminded of this during orientation every year.

Every student "worker" who helps for even 2 minutes is given a lesson on customer service and polite, helpful behavior versus bossy, dictatorial pushy behavior. I make a point of reading anti-bully literature with K-2 students each year and we reward "positive" behavior.

Unfortunately, outside our library it can be a dangerous world. Every technology standard curriculum that I have examined has included the ethics of ICT skills. It is essential that we encourage all teachers to be aware of issues of bullying, cyberbullying, and safety whether it is face-to-face or virtual. So put on your capes and go out and save the world! (at least take the first step towards the door and participate in Stop Cyberbullying Day by discussing this on your blogs and listservs)

Talk It Up

  • Posted on March 27, 2007 at 8:31 PM

National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) is only one month away. Will you be there or will you send someone to speak for you? You can participate virtually through the Virtual Library Legislative Day (VLLD). I deeply appreciate the American Library Association's Washington Office staff member training. These people know the facts, the climate, the approach and the people. By the time you finish the Briefing day on May 1st, you will be ready to make "THE BIG ASK."

Is actually going there important to our representatives? I decided to ask at the state level. Most states have similar events and I was fortunate enough to attend Tennessee's Library Legislative Day during February. Our big ask was for the state senators and representatives to put $1 million back in the Governor's budget for the Tennessee Electronic Library  (TEL) as originally requested by our Secretary of State Riley Darnell.

By the way, I believe Tennessee is the only state to send their Secretary of State  and the state librarian as part of the TN delegation every year to NLLD to speak on behalf of libraries!

State Senator Mae Beavers (pictured)  found time that day to meet. After explaining TEL and making the big ask, I interviewed her with this question: "How do you prefer to hear from your constituents?"

Senator Beavers indicated that how you approach is key for her. She wants to be informed and not simply have someone be demanding. Flashy presentations take too much time. No matter where or how she is approached, she attempts to sincerely listen to each constituent.

Said Senator Beavers, "You've got to know how the money is being spent so you'll know whether it's needed and how it's being used effectively." She appreciates people who respect her limited time and values those who get to the point immediately, have the background information on hand if needed, and can concisely explain the impact of upcoming votes and issues.

State Representative Susan Lynn emphasized how much she appreciated constituents who were willing to travel to her office to meet. She appreciates the effort people put into presentations, CD's, brochures, and pamphlets but honestly admitted that there is seldom time for the representatives to review the materials after the office visit. She prefers visits that are short, succinct, and to the point. Photos and artifacts from children are sweet but present storage problems.

As I visited with many staff members and representatives throughout the capital, I witnessed materials being put in File 13 as the door was closing on the previous visitor. In fact, I saw one visitor suddenly return and the staff member had to pull out the material from the trash to review an item. I asked what it would take to make sure that my business card and information stayed in their files. We agreed that the staff members and/or the representatives had to hear a reason why they might need to contact me in the future or to be able to recall who I was when I followed up.

State Senator Joe Haynes represents my school and has come to read to first and to third graders. Many classes of first graders have enjoyed his reading Dr. Seuss' titles on Read Across America Day. The third graders study state government and the balance of powers so they are always ready with questions. Senator Haynes will never forget coming to our school because last year a parent backed into his car. That's not my favorite recommendation for making an impression.

Because Senator Haynes was called away to his law office during TN Legislative Day,  his wonderful assistant, Jan Markum (pictured right),  found time during my Spring Break when I could return to explain the importance of our state electronic databases for our students and citizens. (My husband was able to attend the second meeting with me and spoke on alternative education issues.) 

I asked Senator Haynes about his communication preferences. He too prefers visits in his office because his time is too scheduled to allow  numerous school visits. He told us that he is willing to listen anywhere and is often approached on street corners, in the grocery store, and other public places. The most important factor was for the person approaching him to begin on common grounds, explaining what issue and legislation they were concerned with, and why it was important.

Staff members are key to getting access and being remembered. Jan Markum in state Senator Joe Haynes office not only schedules his appointments, she shops for the books he will read and donate to classrooms during school visits. Jan usually works through lunch daily but enjoys dessert. It helps to remember these things when you are asking favors.

Knowing your representatives is important. Senator Haynes indicated that his favorite visitor that day had been the UT lobbyist who was also able to advise him which fishing boat to consider purchasing. While I was trying to relate to fishing through my sons' fishing experiences, Senator Haynes looked up and said to my husband, "I bet she doesn't even clean her own fish." They had a moment of male bonding while I contemplated vegetarianism again. I much prefer taking a book along to read while my guys fish.

I do know that if an issue involving school libraries in Tennessee surfaces, there are staff members and representatives who will be able to fish my card out of their files.

Gleeful Gliffy

  • Posted on March 24, 2007 at 12:01 AM

Interactive tools online don't have to be sequential and wordy. I am definitely a graphical learner. I love Kidspiration with my students. I use Inspiration whenever I am brainstorming lessons and grant ideas with teachers. The online tool Gliffy is one of my favorite Web 2.0 technologies but I need help mastering the collaborativeness. Who'd like to help?

This is an example I used earlier this year while trying out Gliffy. I wanted to share visually some ideas about why I like to blog. Gliffy allows collaborative efforts but it insists upon emailing people you choose. This won't work for large collaborative efforts? What other graphical programs do you recommend? Have you found a way to have a wiki-effect for visual collaborations?

Share your ideas about why you like to blog. Maybe you simply like graphing who in the world reads your words. That's okay. This is an interactive world. It's not sequential or one-dimensional. We can embrace our differences with new technologies. Participate. You have a whole world of readers out there to help.

Shaking Up Our Profession

  • Posted on March 23, 2007 at 12:01 AM

Movers & Shakers! Each year Library Journal takes nominations for 50 plus librarians and other individuals to honor as a Mover and Shaker. Take a look at who represents the school library field this year including the amazing Lisa Von Drasek, the passionate Melissa Johnston, the inspirational Julie Masterson-Smith,  the dedicated Gregory Lum, and so many others. Brian Kenney posted about this immediately, but I believe it is required for all of us to go read the biographies of all 50 Movers & Shakers, not just those most like ourselves. We are part of a larger profession.

Last year I was upset because our field seemed neglected. I posted on LM_NET, I wrote to individuals, I blogged, and I went directly to the editor and publishers. If you chanced upon me at a Midwinter party, I was actively campaigning for SLJ to create their own award structure because there was no effort to seek out and include school librarians in the larger parent publication. I also urged people to nominate school librarians because this is the only way for them to get in this list. Library Journal is not going to send out reporters to go find the hidden library experts. They are not keeping tabs of the people who shake our professional foundations. They ARE relying upon us, you, and me to send in those names.

Unfortunately, not enough people are finding out about this award. Due to publisher issues, the lists aren't cross-posted in print. I still believe LJ and SLJ need more cross-publication articles. The newly revised interactive websites are helping because you can TalkBack about any article. But communication comes from individuals not just publications. A trusted individual school librarian who tells you to go read an article means more than a 2×3 advertisement.

Start now. Send in those applications for 2008's Movers & Shakers. The criteria states "up-and-coming individuals from across the United States and Canada who are innovative, creative, and making a difference. From librarians to vendors to others who work in the library field, Movers & Shakers 2008 will celebrate the new professionals who are moving our libraries ahead. Deadline for submissions is October 29, 2007."

Here's part of the dilemna. School librarians don't like to single out individuals to nominate. Far too many of us work in situations where we are the ONLY professional in our work environment who knows how truly amazing we are. We deal in practicalities. We deal in young children. We routinely work to create an atmosphere of learning and inspire students, while repeating many activities yearly with new batches of students and parents. How can we identify those amazing movers and shakers in the school library field? Too many of my colleagues are too shy to speak up for themselves.

Leadership in organizations is one source. The structure of AASL has national elections, plus leaders who arise through state organizations to become the Affiliate Assembly. Posters on LM_NET have a huge audience of about 12,000 school librarians world-wide. In August 2005 I posted about speakers and librarians I'd like to meet in the coffee shop of library heaven. My list continues to grow. Bloggers, authors, speakers, and teachers of the next generation of school librarians.

If you were to sit down and make a quick list of school library professionals that have impacted you in the past and continue to shake your world,  then share this list with others, you might be surprised who appears. You don't have to agree with each of them. You do have to participate. It seems the last time SLJ had a major article of this type was in June 2003 with their People to Watch: Ten leaders who are making a difference in school and public libraries. Thanks to our current technologies we do not have to limit our list to ten people. Everyone can contribute.  

Here is a very short list to spark your mind:

Peter Milbury, Doug Johnson, Joyce Valenza, Sara Kelly Johns, Cyndi Phillip, Judy Freeman, Carl Harvey, Alice Yucht, Shonda Briscoe, Toni Buzzeo, Judy Moreillon, Denise Rehmke, Deb Logan, Sandy Shuckett, Sandra Andrews, Jackie Pierson, Chris Harris, and….

Come on… You know you want to share. Start commenting.

Strong Bodies, Strong Minds

  • Posted on March 22, 2007 at 6:03 PM

Since the new research says working out makes us smarter and helps fight cancers, what will you be doing in your library? The March 26, 2007 Newsweek article by Mary Carmichael "Stronger, Faster, Smarter" was entertaining reading especially when it confronted stereotypes of jocks as being less capable with Charles Hillman blaming schools for cutting athletes too much slack.

My favorite quote "Having a big, gorgeous, healthy brain isn't enough, of course; it also has to be full. For that, kids have to hit the library as well as the gym."

I have heard of public libraries having students work off their library fines with Dance Dance Revolution. Think how you can add more physical activity to your mental workouts. Are you collaborating with the P.E. teachers and coaches at your school? My P.E. teachers have helped me by taking over the reading program with our local baseball team. They have asked me to find new health, fitness, and nutrition information videos/DVD's for them. I am not having great luck. Any suggestions?

Links to DDR:
Walking Paper
The Shifted Librarian
The Honest Hypocrite

Alternative Ed Needs Librarians

  • Posted on March 20, 2007 at 6:16 PM

Have you forgotten a student population in your district? Look at the alternative education programs that keep expanding throughout the country. Should you be reaching out to them, why, and how?

I interviewed Alan Chiupka, alt. ed. Teacher at M.A.P. Academy in Lebanon, TN about the special library needs his students have. Alan indicated that many regular (home) school teachers mistakenly believe the alt. ed. programs use the same type of teaching, and have the same access to all the materials of the home school. Alan currently has 12 students with 4 classes each on a block schedule. Some classes are duplicates but he still prepares for 36 courses each day including pacing, grading, and re-teaching. This is beyond the discipline needs that arise daily that take him away from teaching. Students sit in carrels working on their daily assignments.

Diane: Tell me about their reading habits.

Alan: Some kids read, but most kids don't read willingly when they first enter. Their reading ability is often low and has impacted behavior in previous schools. When they had difficulty with individual reading assignments, they looked for ways to amuse themselves and made poor choices which may have contributed to their coming to an alternative situation. Students skim textbooks individually for their lessons in their carrels. They are assigned passages to read, but in my opinion they are just skimming.

I encourage individualized free reading whenever possible. I think the most recent brain research has indicated that the first 20 minutes in an hour of study are when learning occurs. Students are with me 7 hours a day. I think it’s unrealistic to expect them to be fully engaged in the curriculum for all of those hours. A little bit of light reading each hour after a strenuous assignment allows their brain time to recover before going on to the next assignment. This helps to consolidate what they have learned, improves their reading ability, and forms a habit they will continue all their life.

Diane: Tell me about your library, research and free reading resources.

Alan: Students are always encouraged to bring in their own books. We won’t let you bring in a magazine. We don’t have a library, but my principal has taken a leadership role in attempting to increase access to books for students. We receive donations and cast-offs from other schools and public libraries. Every teacher comes to the school with their own resources and small classroom collection. We share freely with each other.

Students are horribly handicapped by their inability to do research. There are no resources other than low level encyclopedias and these aren't appropriate at the high school level. Students are not allowed to freely access the internet.

There is no access to a librarian on-site. The teacher often has to do the research for the student. When I suspect that what they need is available on the internet, I work with the student individually. I am the gatekeeper to the internet. I do the search, pick out the relevant material for them, and present it to them. They learn research in my classroom not by being able to do it for themselves, which may lead to frustration and poor research anyway, but by watching an experienced researcher do it for them and explain the steps while doing it.

Diane: Do students use the state databases through the Tennessee Electronic Library?

Alan: Perhaps we would do so if we had someone more experienced with that aspect of research. Not being a librarian, I may not have the full bag of tricks a librarian has at their disposal. I think wikipedia is getting some bad press from people who may have an axe to grind, when it’s actually a great starting resource particularly for math. I wouldn’t want to quote it, but I’d want to know what it says.

If I had a librarian, we would have more resources in the classroom. I'd find a lesson plan online and the librarian would help me find the resources indicated. Collaborative efforts are not possible because there is no librarian to collaborate with. However it's my experience when working in the regular schools, in two of the three schools where I was teaching, the librarian didn't want to collaborate with me in lessons anyway. This was sad for the librarians, too, because they were losing out on my subject expertise for lessons that they had to teach."

Diane: Why not take field trips to the public library?

Alan: My principal has suggested this and it may be on the horizon. Right now it’s a matter of logistics. Seventy-five students making a weekly trek to the public library would tax their resources as well as ours.

Diane: Isn't it true that your principal banned graphic novels because a student brought in a sexually explicit novel?

Alan: At that time no staff members were familiar with the rating system for graphic novels and the student tried to take advantage of their ignorance. The principal banned them which I thought was appropriate based upon our available knowledge. A librarian in the building would have nipped that in the bud. Now that we know about the rating system, I anticipate the ban will be relaxed. When you place yourself in an alt. ed. school, you limit some of your options.

Diane: How can we help?

Alan: I’m sure that librarians can think of ways to help that have never occurred to me because of their familiarity with their jobs. Be free with your ideas and don’t be afraid to present them to the alternative school principals. Don’t be discouraged when a good idea is rejected because of the special needs required by the alt. ed. population.

Student reading goals – whose are they?

  • Posted on March 18, 2007 at 7:48 AM

Everywhere you turn there are programs out there to motivate your students to read. Some of them are commercial products. Some are business-based that have hidden agendas. Most of them purport their motivation is to get students to read. But who is determining the goals and reasons for these programs? What are sample goals of these programs?

Read X number of minutes
Read X number of books
Read at X level of proficiency
Read X amount with family members
Read X number of specified genres
Earn coupons from businesses
Earn coupons and tickets for events
Earn certificates for levels of achievement
Earn certificates for number of books or minutes

One interesting product on the market is called Mark My Time – a bookmark and stopwatch device in one. It has two essential functions – a countdown timer with alarm to release the child when they have finished X number of minutes and a cumulative timer to store total time for multiple reading sessions. While this was named "Best New Product of 2004" by BookExpo, I have to question the entire underlying premise. Some librarians tell me it helps students track and beat the clock. Whatever happened to losing yourself in a book? If you are a good reader, will you read less? If you have studied this as action research, please let me know.

Are we motivating students to read or are we simply holding them accountable to jump through the hoops to reach our own goals? While many teachers work with students to set goals, many other goals are arbitrary. Is this good for students? Some children will always benefit from motivational programs. Some children will resist participating. Aren't there other ways to motivate than extrinisic rewards and outside measures?

Book clubs, book discussion groups, integrating technology, extended hours, interactive gaming with book tie-in's, free time, attractive environments, a collection based upon student requests (including graphic novels), and a sense of ownership of the place (library) and the process (learning). Won't all of these build stronger readers? Take a look at Broward County's program including their link for parents about What Makes Children Want to Read.

I hear from librarians across the country who talk about their students still needing an extra push to read and the extrinsic rewards. I acknowledge this and respect how all of us are willing to try whatever it takes to inspire students life-long reading.  I do have a variety of programs available within my school and do provide social rewards for reading if that's what it takes with some of my readers. Isn't that our job as educators to find the tools to help our students and staff while at the same time philosophizing about the practice? Let's continue to add tools to our belt.

Here are some additional sources on reading motivational programs and I encourage you to add more:
SLJ's article on Reading Motivation by Marilyn Shontz and Leslie Farmer
Stephen D Krashen's articles and books
Book Adventure from Sylvan Learning
Accelerated Reader  from Renaissance Learning
UK's Literacy Trust book title list
Book titles to explore reading motivation from RIF
Reading Rockets research on motivation
Education World's article on 25 ways to motivate (based upon the Book-It program by Pizza Hut)
South Jersey Regional Library's Book Page is full of resources
An article from 2001 by Becca at

Many of the articles are highlighting resistance particularly by males to being forced to read. Having 4 test subjects, I mean sons, in my house, I did an informal survey with them. All of their comments boiled down to this: "When the library or the bookstore has what I want to read, then I read."

I joked with my principal last week because a group of 10 boys from 3rd and 4th grade had created a shopping list for me to take the next time I was at a bookstore like BooksAMillion. I made the trip, using my educator discount card (I also have one of those for Barnes & Noble) and my own funds, and was able to pick up some of the Seventh Tower and Warrior series books the boys had to have for spring break. I slapped a barcode on the book and stamped it with our school name once then made an intercom announcement that they were in that Friday before Spring Break.

Their teachers reported havoc breaking out because they had to come down that Friday morning and get their books. The boys gathered at tables for an impromptu discussion, agreed who was going to read which book, and exchanged phone numbers in case one of them finished before school started again. When I explained to them that book #2 wasn't in the store, but that the store had given me a $10 coupon so I could order online, two of them said, "Well, aren't you going to do it right now? We'll do the checkout." I think you can see they feel ownership of their library. We really do work in the best spot in school.

Teacher-Librarian Best or Worst

  • Posted on March 16, 2007 at 5:18 PM

So do we have one of the 25 best careers in 2007 or one of the 10 most overrated careers in 2007? Maybe we have both. This week the U.S. News & World Report released their 2007 lists of the 25 best careers. Librarians made the list! But we did suffer in the category of prestige. The report suggests we will be surprised by the inclusion, but "Even though anybody can do a Google search, for instance, librarians will be needed more and more to help us navigate all that digital information."  I was pleased to be part of the best group until I read "On top of it all, librarians' work hours are reasonable, and the work environment, needless to say, is placid."

Wait! Placid! They couldn't possibly be talking about my environment. My school library is so completely hectic with so much activity, that I know USNews can't be talking about me. Go read my 2006 post where I listed what happened at my school within 30 minutes. Then I realized that Teaching is listed as one of the ten most overrated careers. AHA!  The description of that environment sounds much more familiar to me. And, I do agree that most of us began our careers as teacher-librarians AKA library media specialists to make a difference to students.

So, in this situation, I am afraid the educational part of our career is going to have to be the most important. Any nay-sayer's? Perhaps we should create our own debate about why we do have the best career.

Blog Safety

  • Posted on March 16, 2007 at 4:18 PM

Nancy Willard's new book for parents: Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, has been released today. Her previous book was Cyberbullying, Cyberthreats.  Nancy often speaks to parents and educators about internet safety. She has a website for Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens. Nancy emailed me back in November to say she will be providing powerpoints on her site "librarians and teachers can use to present workshops on Internet safety and responsible use to parents in their schools and communities. I will use the "train the trainer" with a special emphasis on librarians — because I know where the "smart people" who understand Internet use are in local schools." 

Another interesting source on internet safety can be found at Check out this post about Predators and CyberBullies. BlogSafety is operated by Tech Parenting Group, a not-for-profit organization, and is affiliated with,, and Childnet International They state they are "where parents, teens, educators, and experts discuss and learn about safe blogging and social networking."

What other sites do you use to help educate parents, educators, and students on cyber-safety?

Podcasting with No Dollars

  • Posted on March 14, 2007 at 4:39 PM

There are levels of collaborativeness. Can you find ways to transform lower levels of cooperation and coordination into collaborative projects? One of my goals this year is to help teachers unpack our new district technology standards including the technology communication standards. Using a lower level of initial collaboration, I sought a way to involve students in higher level thinking skills to assess their own process and products while communicating with others.

The library can be supportive of teacher and student classroom projects. Lisa Haygood and I discussed various genres for her third grade class to use which helped me ensure sufficient resources were available. When the projects were completed in their classroom, students proudly displayed them in the library. Because I wanted to capture and share their excitement, I decided this would make an excellent example of how you can podcast with elementary students.

Listen to these first-time podcasts: 







First I prepared a set of generic questions for the teacher and the students. I met with the students so we could discuss higher level skills of synthesizing information and communicating their results with others, in this case via a podcast. Knowing many schools have no equipment and might be hesitant to try a podcast, I set out to prove this was an easy process that anyone could try.

The basic process involves:

  • Establishing a free account with a pin number.
  • Using a telephone to dial in and enter the pin.
  • Recording the podcast, pressing #, and publishing the podcast to the web (an option).
  • Logging on to the computer with my password and listening to their podcasts.
  • Exporting the podcasts as MP3 files.
  • Sharing the URL or the MP3 file with others.

Teacher Questions:

What do you call this project? A New Cereal On The Shelf
Tell me about this project. The children were to read a fiction book, then invent a cereal representing the book. It had to present info in a fun, creative format.
Where did you find the idea? In the book 24 Ready to Go Genre Book Reports by Susan Ludwig.
Have you ever tried it before? No
What was the most positive aspect of this project? The student’s excitement.
What did you notice about the students working on this project? They were so interested and talked about it for days. They would be reading their books at every free moment in class.
How will you assess this project? I have a rubric giving possible points earned.
Will you do this project again? Absolutely.
Are there any changes you will make next time? No

Student Questions:

The following are the questions I asked the students to think about before podcasting:

  • What was your theme?
  • Tell me what you included.
  • What was your favorite part of this project?
  • What do you think you learned the most when you were working on this?
  • Do you like sharing your projects?
  • What would you tell other people who are thinking about doing this?

Students used my cell phone (standing near our courtyard to get reception) to podcast. We used gcast .com because the service is free and very easy to use. I dialed the phone number and entered my secret pin, then quickly handed the children the phone. They were instructed to begin talking at the sound of the beep and press the pound sign # when they were finished. Five out of six students did not know what the pound sign was. The next instruction was for them to choose whether they wanted to listen to themselves, publish it, or delete it and re-record themselves. The students were thrilled to hear themselves and are looking forward to sending their families to subscribe to them online.

Finally, I logged on to my gcast account so I could check the audio levels. Since this was a first attempt for the students, I decided against heavy editing but did export the file as an MP3. I did use Audacity 1.2.6  to cut out the comical moment when each of them looked at me and said, “Where’s the pound sign?” Then I saved the files again as MP3’s and have loaded these to the school server for the parents convenience. The podcasts can be saved at gcast, uploaded to iTunes, or even stored on Google’s gmail site.

I hope you enjoy our initial efforts. They are not perfect. The important thing is to just get started and TRY. We’ll get better with practice. We’ll read the journal articles on podcasting, view the clips on SLJ’s podcast site, and read the new book Podcasting and iPods at School or  Active Learning Through Drama, Podcasting, and Puppetry by school library media specialist Kristin Fontichario.